Math Basics

Basic Mathematical Operations

How did the symbols for long division develop?

In the 19th century, U.S. textbooks typically showed long division with the divisor, dividend, and quotient on the same line, separated by parentheses, as 36)108(3. In the same century, in examples of short division, a vinculum (line) was placed under the dividend, with the vinculum almost attached to the bottom of the parenthesis. The quotient was written under the vinculum, as per the following:


By late in the 19th century, the vinculum is almost attached to the top of the parenthesis and the quotient is written above the vinculum, as per the following:


These symbols are similar to what we see in our elementary dealings with long division, but our vinculum is attached to the parenthesis. Interestingly enough, there is no name for the symbol used for long division ( )—-).


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